The reforms undertaken by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration in the creative sector are fast turning Benin City, Edo State capital, into the creative hub of Nigeria and filmmakers from across the country are flocking into the city to savour the emerging enabling environment.

On the back of the incentives created by these reforms, big-ticket productions are berthing in Benin, by Nollywood big names as well as a number of productions linked to Netflix.
It was also this enabling environment that attracted members of Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN), who converged on the ancient city from July 13-15, 2023 for their annual national convention.

Speaking to The Nigerian Observer in an interview on the sidelines of the three-day convention which held at the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the convention, Chief Henry Iyobosa Legemah, affirmed that Governor Obaseki’s reforms in the creative sector have made Benin City the first port of call for filmmakers in the country.

According to him, the DGN chose Benin City for the convention because the governor had created an enabling environment for the industry to thrive through the Edojobs and the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub.

“Benin City, in fact, Edo State, if you must know, right now is the creative hub of this country. Edo State has become now the Mecca of entertainment and creative activities and that is to the grace of the governor of Edo State who has done so much,” said Legemah, who also served as DG NEC chairman 2023.

“If you must know, what used to be our Mecca, or Idiogbe (the ancestral home of a family) if you are a Benin man, was the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre. We don’t know what happened, but the governor didn’t let us suffer; he built and moulded the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub which, as far as I am concerned, is even more functional than the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre. It has a soundproof hall that sits over 3,000 people, state-of-the-art movie studio, musical studio, photo studio – it is a one-stop creative hub,” he said.

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For context, the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub, named after the late Edo State-born music legend, musical instrument inventor, writer, sculptor, and university lecturer, was conceived to boost entertainment to ensure Edo youths realise their fullest potential in line with the Obaseki administration’s commitment to leveraging the numerous opportunities in the creative industry to empower more Edo youths and grow the state’s economy. Inaugurated in November 2021, the hub boasts of an ultramodern, air-conditioned stage outlet with befitting equipment to bring out the best in stage performances; editing suites; different venue sizes depending on event size or organiser’s capacity; a state-of-the-art sound stage for film and TV production; a mini-studio for photography and content creation, among others.

“I want to say that having been everywhere else as a practitioner of over 48 to 50 years, this event has been hosted by different states, but seeing what the governor has put on ground, it was only necessary that as an Edo person I must make sure that creative practitioners in this country see and know first-hand what the governor is actually doing for the entertainment industry in Edo State and for Nigeria,” Legemah said.

He said because of the enabling environment that Governor Obaseki has created, not just at the Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub but also his interventions in other areas of the creative sector, many more filmmakers are willing to use Benin City for their movies.

“You as a director will come into this town, you don’t need to book hotel rooms for your crew and your PAs, and even some of your cast. You just put them there. There is more than a hundred bed space there at the hub, and there are rooms, guest rooms for free. I don’t think any state has done anything like that, and I still don’t think you can get it better anywhere, that’s why everybody wants to come here.

“Let me shock you, if you need props for your shoot, like the airport, the police station, the courtroom and others, the government has asked Victor Uwaifo Creative Hub and Edojobs to make it possible at no cost to us. We just shot scenes using the airport, the court, the stadium, police stations, even using gunboats the governor bought for the protection of the waterways – we used it free of charge for our movies. There is no producer or director anywhere who will see such facilities, such enabling environment and go somewhere else.

“I have been to states where directors and even actors were kidnapped, but in Edo State you are protected, so everybody will come. And even DGN has said before the end of the year about 16 productions will be done here by DGN members to appreciate what the governor has done,” he said.